Herceg Novi is one of the youngest towns on Adriatic, but also one of the rare ones for which we know when it was founded. The King of “Srbljem i Bosni i primorju” (Serbia and Bosnia and coast), Stjepan or Stefan Tvrtko “The First” Kotromanić started building “St. Stefan” in 1382. It is less known that Herceg Stjepan Vukčić Kosača, after whom the town was named, was responsible for the first organised musical performance. As a well known admirer of arts, Herceg has invited musicians from Dubrovnik to his court to play at the wedding of his younger son Vlatko. Music was probably performed even before that but this is the first written mentioning that we possess. That is why we take this event as the beginning of the music in Herceg Novi.
Music was performed even during the time when the town was ruled by the Spanish and Ottomans although there is no written evidence. In 1664, Evlija Čelebija made a writing in which he says “in the evenings and mornings music is played twice”. There is no mentioning what kind of music and for what purpose. We can only assume that it was some kind of military music. One after the other, Novi was ruled by different conquers first Venetians, then Austrians. The town was destroyed and then rebuild but the music remained. Choirs were formed in orthodox churches, especially in the monastery “Savina”. After that church vocal groups appeared. Choir “St. Savo” is the oldest one that exists and nowadays it’s a part of the church “St. Archangel Mihailo”. There were organized studies of sacral music at catholic churches and monasteries.
Once founded, the strong musical thread was also guarded by all schools in town and all the places along the Riviera of Herceg Novi. It was also cherished by the City band founded in 1886, and tambour association from Đenovići (1919) and later on by Local brass band which functions from 1929. Musical School has been making its own contribution since 1949.
The lasting mark in the music of the town was made by ensemble “Bokelji”, women singing group “Lastavice”, and the pages of musical history of Herceg Novi have also been written by “Egzodusi” group “Stari Kapetan”, “Castel Nuovo”, “Bokeljski galioti”, women vocal groups “Lira” and “Zlatan vez”. This image is completed by festivals “Dani muzike” and “Guitar art summer fest” In this rich kaleidoscope, Bruna Špiler remains unique. The first tribute to her was a single concert by her former student – primadona Radmila Smiljanić, titled “To Professor with Love”. Not much time has passed from that concert until March 2008, when the “International Festival of Solo-singers – Bruna Špiler” was founded. This was all possible because of the persistence of people from NVO “Adut” and “Bruna”, and especially the professor of solo-singing Mirela Šćasni, Miroslav Bobo Milanović, Mirko Buljančević, professor Anita Zloković, as well as unselfish help and constant support that was given to the festival by conductor Darinka Matić Marović.
In the first year of the festival there were around 50 participants from countries of former Yugoslavia. All performances, including the final concert “Bellcanto za sjećanje”, were imbued with memories of Herceg Novi from Bruna’s youth, which her sister Bjanka Zimić Berberović has written about.
“We grew up in a sunny and singing atmosphere of Herceg Novi (at least that’s how it looked like to us). Back then, town had a different face, atmosphere, the way of life and the look. There were no settlements, only smaller or bigger houses with gardens. We had a feeling that everyone was in a good mood and I can’t remember anyone who wasn’t whistling some aria from opera while walking down the street. You could hear women singing while doing housework from almost every house. In just moments friends would gather with a guitar on the street, barge or stairs. And during the night you could hear serenades.
In our house, everyone was playing some instrument. Dad used to play the guitar and our brothers violin and accordion. When the night falls we would often sit around a petrol lamp and sing and play together. However Bruna wanted something more. She accomplished that with hard work and sacrifice, with no ones help.
Herceg Novi from our youth had organized choirs as well as amateur groups and city band in which Bruna has participated. In hard times after the Wold War II, performances of amateur groups, choirs and soloists were organized. Bruna was always among the first and her songs were thrilling for the audience. She would always get the biggest applause. People remember her performances and beautiful voice even today. And it remained like that until she went to Belgrade to continue her school that was interrupted by the war and occupation. In Belgrade she has finished her final examination and Musical Academy by herself without much help from family.
Bruna’s husband, Miroslav Špiler has been asked to organize Music Academy in Sarajevo so they moved to Sarajevo. Bruna became a professor at the Academy. Her classes produced a lot of famous names in the world of music such as Radmila Smiljanić, Ljiljana Molnar-Talajić, Miomira Vitas etc. Many of her students are today famous opera singers, well respected professors, directors of opera houses.
During her work at the Academy she wrote a study on techniques of solo-singing. The Academy published the book as a script that was used by students and in case that they couldn’t buy it they would transcribe it. Even today, people ask if we have that book.
There are many tales about her work with students which are best told by them and her colleagues.”
Desire to keep the memory of Bruna has been achieved by the organizers of this festival, under secure patronage of Community Herceg Novi and excellent cooperation with JUK Herceg fest. This way we confirm that “Novi does not forget its citizens which had, through hard work and zeal, contribute for it to become the City of artists and remain the town with a soul” – These were the words told by the major Dejan Mandić at the opening ceremony of the first festival.
Always open for accepting the best from everywhere, brave enough to present its own people to the world, Novi, although the youngest at the Coast, has lasted as cultural Herceg – duke in Boka, Montenegro and region, or official champion in cultural tourism of south-east Europe.